U.S. flag An official website of the United States government
  1. Home
  2. Cosmetics
  3. Cosmetic Products & Ingredients
  4. Cosmetic Ingredients
  5. Talc
  1. Cosmetic Ingredients

On March 9, 2020, FDA issued a new Constituent Update and FDA In Brief on the release of results from FDA’s sampling assignment with AMA Analytical Services, Inc. (AMA) testing talc-containing cosmetic products for the presence of asbestos.

On February 4, 2020, FDA held a public meeting on testing methods for asbestos in talc and cosmetic products containing talc. Additional information about the meeting is available in this Federal Register Notice.

On October 18, 2019, the FDA updated the Safety Alert and issued a new Constituent Update warning consumers not to use certain cosmetic products that tested positive for asbestos.

The FDA continues to analyze cosmetics for asbestos contamination and will provide updates with additional information that becomes available.   

Talc is an ingredient used in many cosmetics, from baby powder to blush. From time to time, FDA has received questions about its safety and whether talc contains harmful contaminants, such as asbestos. 

FDA's Authority Over Cosmetic Safety

Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), cosmetic products and ingredients, with the exception of color additives, do not have to undergo FDA review or approval before they go on the market. Cosmetics must be properly labeled, and they must be safe for use by consumers under labeled or customary conditions of use. The law does not require cosmetic companies to share safety information with FDA. 

FDA monitors for potential safety problems with cosmetic products on the market and takes action when needed to protect public health. Before we can take such action against a cosmetic, we need sound scientific data to show that it is harmful under its intended use. Learn more about FDA's Authority Over Cosmetics.

Talc: What it is and How it is Used in Cosmetics

Talc is a naturally occurring mineral, mined from the earth, composed of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Chemically, talc is a hydrous magnesium silicate with a chemical formula of Mg3Si4O10(OH)2.

Talc has many uses in cosmetics and other personal care products; in food, such as rice and chewing gum; and in the manufacture of tablets. For example, it may be used to absorb moisture, to prevent caking, to make facial makeup opaque, or to improve the feel of a product.

Published scientific literature going back to the 1960s has suggested a possible association between the use of powders containing talc and the incidence of ovarian cancer. However, these studies have not conclusively demonstrated such a link, or if such a link existed, what risk factors might be involved. The FDA has ongoing research in this area. In addition, questions about the potential contamination of talc with asbestos have been raised since the 1970s. 

Asbestos: What it is, Why it is a Concern, and How to Prevent its Occurrence in Cosmetics

Asbestos is also a naturally occurring silicate mineral, but with a different crystal structure. Both talc and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals that may be found in close proximity in the earth. Unlike talc, however, asbestos is a known carcinogen. There is the potential for contamination of talc with asbestos and therefore, it is important to select talc mining sites carefully and take steps to test the ore sufficiently.

The FDA sampled cosmetic products following reports of asbestos contamination in talc-containing cosmetics. Testing of the samples was conducted on behalf of FDA by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and AMA Analytical Services, Inc. (AMA).

Listed below are the current findings from the testing:

The summary table , “FDA Summary of Results from Testing of Official Samples of Talc-Containing Cosmetics of Asbestiform Fibers by AMA Laboratories During FY19”, can be found in 2019 Talc Survey Appendix, which provides further details on the above AMA Analytical Services Inc. reports for each of the cosmetic products containing talc that were analyzed in this survey, including product distributor/manufacturer, brand, product name, batch/lot #, FDA Sample ID # (D-#), and the findings from the testing.

FDA contracted with AMA Analytical Services, Inc. (AMA) of Lanham, MD to conduct a laboratory talc survey, based on demonstrated experience with asbestos analysis in complex matrices, appropriate facilities, equipment, personnel, analytical strategy, and budget criteria. The study ran from September 28, 2009 to September 27, 2010.

How the Survey Was Conducted

The first step was to identify cosmetic talc suppliers and talc-containing cosmetic products. We found seven talc suppliers identified in the 2008 edition of the International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook and two more by searching online. The contract laboratory contacted each supplier to request samples of its talc. Of the nine suppliers identified, four complied with the request.

We found talc-containing cosmetic products to analyze by visiting various retail outlets in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The samples identified for testing included low, medium, and high priced products, along with some from “niche” markets, in order to cover as broad a product range as possible. A total of thirty-four cosmetic products containing talc were selected, including eye shadow, blush, foundation, face powder, and body powder. All cosmetic products were purchased from retail stores in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

The contract laboratory analyzed the samples using polarized light microscopy (PLM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) methods published by the New York State Department of Health, Environmental Laboratory Approval Program. Each sample was analyzed three times using both methods.

The Results of FDA's Survey and What They Mean

The survey found no asbestos fibers or structures in any of the samples of cosmetic-grade raw material talc or cosmetic products containing talc. The results were limited, however, by the fact that only four talc suppliers submitted samples and by the number of products tested. For these reasons, while FDA finds these results informative, they do not prove that most or all talc or talc-containing cosmetic products currently marketed in the United States are likely to be free of asbestos contamination. As always, when potential public health concerns are raised, we will continue to monitor for new information and take appropriate actions to protect the public health.

The tables, found in 2010 Talc Survey Appendix, provide details for each of the cosmetic-grade raw material talc samples and cosmetic products containing talc that were analyzed in this survey. Limits of detection are shown below the table for each group of samples. Note: “NAD” means “no asbestos detected.”

Back to Top